I Love You, I Love Me

View of Butler Island from North Hero

View of Butler Island from North Hero. Watercolor by Sally Olson, 2004.

I am at one of my favorite places on the planet right now and doing the needed spring clean up from the winter winds, mice and dust. I am opening camp! Yay!

I am in the quaint, quiet town of North Hero, Vermont, which sits on one of a string of islands on Lake Champlain. Where our camp is located, we face the Green Mountains, and we get to be the first to see the sunrise as we face east. It is dazzling.

I am here alone on the weekend before the Memorial Day holiday and I am surprised to find none of my neighbors around. This means less commotion and more wild life.

I treasure the days that my neighbors are here because they are tremendous people who I really admire and love. But I also treasure the moments when I am here alone because I get to spend some time with my more elusive neighbors, who are shy, and come out when they think no one is about. I just finished mowing the very high lawn and notice that I have just disrupted a very large blue heron, who is fishing. I continue my work and notice that he has come closer and that there is another fishing heron just down the beach. I watch as the one closer to me snags a fish. The herons are silent and deliberate as they move at the edge of the water. I have forgotten everything else as I watch them.

Watching wildlife is a very effective way of quieting down our nervous systems, which is one of the first steps of healing ourselves. The feeling of being one with nature is a rewarding and deeply healing thing we can do for our well being, especially for those of us who tend to be tightly wound, and easily stressed. I can go into the biology of what happens to us when we are constantly stressed, but to give you the short version, when we are stressed we tell our bodies that we are in danger, so all of our body systems are at alert and ready to run, which shuts down our self healing systems. Both systems cannot run at the same time. So by going into that quiet place of connection with the natural world, or even enjoying our pets, we can directly contribute to our own health and wellbeing.

Okay, so where does the love come in? Well, getting back to watching the herons, I began to lose myself in what I was watching, which triggers the right brain, which also cannot operate while we are stressed and the right side of our brains is the creative side, which is why I felt compelled to write and to share this with you. The love comes in as I share another secret with you on wellbeing. As we gaze at something we love, we feel it in our hearts, deeply. Do not waste these special moments but allow yourself to go deeply into them to give yourself a great gift. Look at the object of your affection, and say “I love you”. Then put your hand on your heart and say “I love me”. Do this sincerely. When we sense the love of someone or something else, it is a reflection of ourselves, so take it in. The most important love we have is that of loving ourselves, including self-respect, self-reverence and self-care. Our ancient ancestors took time to go deeply into nature. They needed to do this for survival and it is part of our biology to do the same, to become connected with all things. Turning the love we see for others and other things to ourselves is a way to fill ourselves up and replenish. This practice is suggested in Positive Psychology, where for each negative in our day, we need to counter with three heart-felt positives. This is a staple of wellbeing. So, don’t be afraid to see and feel what is around you and take in the gifts that are there to boost your immune system and your overall wellbeing. Even the smallest things count as long as they are heart felt. As we approach Memorial Day we can remember all and for whom we are grateful and also, remember to love and care for ourselves.